Star Wars Day 2013

If you’re a geek or a nerd you probably celebrated Star Wars Day on Saturday May 4, 2013 (“May the Fourth be with you”). We got together with some friends and watched a Star Wars marathon of all 6 Episodes back-to-back, ate pizza, and did some Star Wars-themed oil paintings for fun.

Here’s the one I painted Saturday.

Tim Barrett - Star Wars Day 2013

Storm Trooper in oil on 11×14” canvas.
Title: ”Those Were The Droids I Was Looking For”

The painting was inspired by a photograph on the Internet with the addition of the Star Wars Imperial Logo Mug from ThinkGeek.com.

Bottom line: We had a great time and hope you did too.

May the Fourth be with you, always!

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Green Gigabit Network Switches

Are your network switches energy efficient? I thought mine were.

A couple of years ago when upgrading my network at home I installed some new 8-port D-Link Green gigabit switches. At the time I was mostly concerned with ‘jumbo packets’ and streaming media, the warranty, and the green stuff was just a nice bonus.

Recently though as I’ve been adding / changing network equipment, I’ve been going through the home network, benchmarking how much power is being used to try and minimize electrical waste. It’s kind of fun in a sad nerdy way.

Today I’m adding another 8-port gigabit switch to my LAN to be used as an iSCSI backbone. I thought about buying another D-Link green switch, but decided to take the scientific approach. Considering that my existing 2-year-old switches were ‘green’ already, this project yielded another big surprise.

2-YEAR OLD SWITCHES

D-Link 8-port gigabit green switch #DGS-2208D-Link 8-port desktop green switches
(one upstairs, one downstairs)

  • 8-port
  • 10/100/1000
  • MAC Address Table: 8k
  • Switch Fabric: 16 Gbps
  • Jumbo frame support: up to 9600 Bytes
  • Part #DGS-2208
  • Street Price: about $58
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=495

These switches performed well for me and handled the job of streaming HD content and moving VHD and ISO files across the LAN with no problems. When I bought these switches 2 years ago, the box stated a power savings of up to 80%, which sounded greener to me.

TRENDnet 8-port gigabit green switch #TEG-S80GNEW SWITCH

TRENDnet 8-port desktop green switch
(being added as an iSCSI backbone on the LAN)

In the past, I wasn’t a big fan of TRENDnet. Their blue plastic hardware looked like something made by Fisher Price in the 70’s, but not anymore. These new switches have a sturdy metal housing, and I like them.

These two switches are very ‘apples-to-apples’ in network specs.

WHICH IS GREENER?

I intentionally benchmarked both switches at 75% capacity (6 ports used with 2 ports unused). The reason being, I don’t like to use all the ports in a switch. In case a port goes bad you still have a couple of extra ports left and don’t have to replace the whole maxed-out switch.

On to the test results…

P3 Kill A Watt test with zero ports used (just turning on the switch):

  • D-Link at 0% capacity: 4.7 Watts ($2.91 / year)
  • TRENDnet 0% capacity: 1.1 Watts ($0.68 / year)

P3 Kill A Watt test with six ports used (3 at 1,000 Mbps, 3 at 100 Mbps):

  • D-Link at 75% capacity: 6.2 Watts ($3.84 / year)
  • TRENDnet at 75% capacity: 3.6 Watts ($2.23 / year)

Comparison of 8-port unmanaged 'green' gigabit switches

The TRENDnet 8-port green switch uses about 42% LESS power than the D-Link green switch under the same load (6 ports).

Also, the TRENDnet with 6 computers plugged into it is still using 22% less power than the D-Link with 0 computers plugged in. That’s cool!

BOTTOM LINE

  • The D-Link #DGS-2208 is still fairly green and has a better warranty.
  • The TRENDnet #TEG-S80G is greener & cheaper with a shorter warranty.

Both are good switches. I’m only saving about $1.61 in electricity per year on the new switch, so obviously I’m not going to replace the existing D-Links with TRENDnet. But it’s nice to see how much greener things have gotten in just the last 2 years! A 42% greener product over something that is already green is awesome!

Final thought: I considered getting a Netgear #GS108 ($60), which isn’t marketed as a ‘green’ product, yet uses 4.09-4.92 Watts. But the TRENDnet is greener than that and costs $20 less.

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Green Makeover – Windows Home Server Edition

Every time someone walks in my office and sees the setup I’m running, their response is usually, “Good lord – how much does it cost to run all this stuff?”

My home office has…

Server rack and monitors in my home office

…a lot of stuff in it…

Closer view of the monitors in my home office

…or so they tell me.

People think I’m burning $100 bills to keep warm, but it’s not as bad as it looks. I admit it – I do have a bit of a monitor fetish. But in my defense, the monitors only get used when I’m in the office and I physically turn them off whenever I leave. Typically, I run 4 monitors at a time. I only turn all the screens on when I’m editing books and need to spread pictures / virtual machines / research documents / manuscripts / websites across the workspace. So, from a power standpoint, the monitors are no big deal.

This is how I rolled in my home network back in 2004.However, that 7’ tall server rack in the corner is the big power hog. The equipment in the rack stays turned on 24x7x365. In addition to the money for the electricity, there are noise and heat issues.

Back in 2004 when I first installed the rack, it sported big Compaq ProLiant 1600R servers with 325-Watt power supplies (see right). I was glad to have the horsepower back in the day, but running those hot and loud machines was tough on the peace and quiet in the house and on the wallet.

Several years later I got into virtualization and happily consolidated those old power-hungry monsters into tidy little virtual servers. I also and changed from CRT monitors to LCDs and swapped the conventional network switches for “green” ones. Currently the rack holds 4 physical servers, which in turn handle about 40 different virtual machines. The newer boxes are more energy efficient, but there’s always room for improvement. This week I’m replacing my old worn out ghetto Windows Home Server with a new one.

SWAPPING WHS V1 for WHS 2011

Since Windows Home Server 2011 needs a 64-bit processor, I had to move to new hardware. Here are the specs to compare:

  Old WHS New WHS
PC Generic whitebox HP ProLiant Microserver
CPU Celeron 2.0 GHz x86 AMD Athlon II Neo N36L 1.3 GHz
RAM 1 GB RAM 3 GB RAM
STORAGE 4 TB storage
(2) WD Black WD1001FALS 1TB
(1) WD Green WD20EARS 2TB
8 TB storage
(4) WD Green WD20EARS 2TB
OS Windows Home Server v1 Windows Home Server 2011

 

You may remember the HP ProLiant Microserver from The World’s Fastest Small Business Server post last year. I *love* those servers!

Certainly, a 64-bit processor and 3x the RAM would make the new WHS box faster than the old one (in spite of the 1.3 GHz clock speed). But I was curious if going to 4 “Green” drives would use more power than the old server which had 2 “Black” drives and 1 “Green” drive.

MEASURING THE POWER USAGE

The Kill A Watt from P3 International - Measures your electric usageThere’s a handy little device from P3 International called the #P4400 Kill A Watt that retails for $17-$25 US.

It’s accurate within .2%, and easy as pie to operate – the instruction manual only has one page.

There are 5 buttons on the front:

  • Volt (volts AC)
  • Amp (amperage)
  • Watt / VA (Watts / Volt Amps)
  • Hz / PF (Hertz / Power Factor)
  • KWH / Hour (Kilowatt-hours / timer)

For our purposes, you only need the Watt button.

  1. Plug the Kill A Watt into the wall (I use an extension cord)
  2. Plug the server (or other equipment) into the front of the Kill A Watt
  3. Turn the server on
  4. Wait for a few minutes for the server to boot and settle down
  5. Press the Watt button and write down your reading

CALCULATING THE COST

Now that we know how many Watts your server is using (let’s say 75 Watts for the sake of argument) let’s calculate what the financial cost is.

Get your latest electric bill or go to your utility website and find the charge for a Kilowatt-Hour (kWh). In Louisville, that’s currently $0.07068 kWh.

To create a formula, and we’ll assign those numbers to variables:

  • W = Watt usage
  • C = Cost per kWh

Formula to calculate the cost to run your server…

…per day: (W / 1000) x 24 x C

…per month: (W / 1000) x 730 x C

…per year: (W / 1000) x 8760 x C

What we’re doing is:

  1. Converting Watts into Kilowatts by dividing W by 1000
    75 Watts / 1000 = 0.075 Kilowatts
  2. Then multiply those Kilowatts x 24 hours in a day to get kWh
    0.075 Kilowatts x 24 hours = 1.8 kWh
  3. Finally, multiply the kWh x the Cost per kWh
    1.8 kWh x $0.07068 = $0.12 per day

Example: (75 Watts / 1000) x 24 hours x $0.07068 kWh = $0.12 per day

You can multiply that number by 365 days to get your cost per year = $43.80

Tip – Skip The Math Anxiety

If you don’t feel like doing the math above, just take your Watt (W) and Cost per kilowatt hour (C) and use the online calculator here:
http://mathmerlin.com/

The online calculator shows you the cost per hour, day, week, month and year all at once.

Kermit said, "It's not easy being green." He lied.ARE WE GREENER?

So how does the new WHS 2011 Microserver compare to the old junker? I measured both servers while streaming a 24 GB .WTV video file from them.

  • OLD Celeron whitebox WHS v1 uses 122 Watts
    Cost to run: $0.21 per day / $6.29 per month / $75.54 per year
  • NEW HP ProLiant Microserver WHS 2011 uses 46.5 Watts
    Cost to run: $0.08 per day / $2.40 per month / $28.79 per year

HP ProLiant MicroserverWINNER = NEW HP Microserver with WHS 2011

  • Has 2 x the storage as the old box
  • Has 3 x the RAM as the old box
  • Uses 60% LESS power
  • Costs me $46.75 LESS per year to run

I had no idea how much juice that old garbage PC was using. I just assumed that a Celeron would use less power because, well, it’s slower. Right?

Obviously, that $46.75 cost savings per year doesn’t pay for even one hard drive in the new server, but that’s not the point. The old box was gimpy, and the hardware had to be replaced to go to the 64-bit platform anyway. The point is that it’s easy to use less energy by making smart hardware choices – choices that still perform REALLY well. The power savings on the new server will more than pay for the cost of the P3 Kill A Watt. The leftover money savings is icing on the cake.

CALL TO ACTION

I encourage you to use a Kill A Watt to see how much juice your server rack or office is burning. You can check the equipment one piece at a time, or just plug a power strip (or your UPS) into the Kill A Watt and check it all at once.

If you have a device that kicks on and off, like a mini fridge or an air conditioner, you can use the KWH button instead of the Watt button and come back an hour later to see the accumulated result. Measuring your electric usage is now quick, easy, and you just must might save yourself some dough.

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The Shirt Off My Back

Sitting in a conference room one day, I thought “You know what would make a great T-shirt” and told some folks my idea. They agreed, Rob dared me to shut up and do it, and I can’t turn down a dare, so this is mostly his fault. The shirt has Dale on it from the “Have U Rebooted Yet” webcomic and he’s saying “THAT’S GREAT FEEDBACK…”

The new "THAT'S GREAT FEEDBACK..." Official "Have U Rebooted Yet?" T-shirt

This is the first time I’ve done a T-shirt, and if it turns out anything like the first batch of buttons, it’s probably horrible. Rob from TitleRequired.com should be able to tell us, since he was daft enough to buy the first one. If his isn’t lousy I’ll buy some too.

It’s over on the Cafe Press store for Have U Rebooted Yet? Details below.
http://www.cafepress.com/haveurebootedyet

T-shirt sizes (I like my names better)The shirt comes in 6 sizes:

  • Sickly (small)
  • Hipster (medium)
  • Diet Soda (large)
  • Couch Potato (XL)
  • Blood Clot (2XL)
  • Eulogy (3XL)

To dogs, all these colors look the sameAnd you can pick from 9 swanky colors:

  • Ninja Black
  • Annoying Red
  • Dead Cardinal
  • I Have No Clever Name For Navy
  • Halo Military Green
  • Poop Brown
  • Equally Annoying Royal
  • Tombstone Charcoal
  • My College Color Was Kelly Green

You can probably imagine why I dropped out of college.

All proceeds from any Have U Rebooted Yet merchandise purchases go towards selfish and impulsive Newegg.com, ThinkGeek.com or Buy.com purchases of crap I don’t really need. Since Sept 2010, I have amassed $1.50. In yer face, Trump!

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Favorite Tech Friday – Targus 4-Outlet Travel Surge

Targus #APS03US 4-port travel surge protectorProduct: Targus Travel Power Outlets with Surge Protection
Manufacturer: Targus
Part #: APS03US
MSRP: $19.99 US
Street Price: about $15 US
URL: http://www.targus.com/us/productdetail.aspx?regionId=7&sku=APS03US

MY RATING

DESCRIPTION

Fantastic 4-port travel-sized surge protector. Great for sharing power in airports, charging your stuff in hotel rooms, or plugging in for presentations.

PROS

  • Illuminated power indicator
  • 4 outlets (most travel models have only 3 outlets)
  • Wide spacing on outlets to accommodate power bricks
  • Rated to 300 joules
  • Clamping voltage 330 volts
  • Super-light (0.5 lbs)
  • Small form factor

CONS

  • No on/off switch
  • No USB charging ports
  • Power cord is straight down (45 degree angle would be nicer)
  • Not for international use (220/240 volts – see note below)
  • Warranty is only one-year

WHY IT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PIECES OF TECH

This adapter is as light as a travel umbrella and takes up about the same amount of space. It’s so light, I usually forget that it’s in my bag.

If you travel a lot domestically, you know what a pain it is to find a place to plug in and charge all of your gadgets. Unless you’re at a super-power-friendly airport (like PHX) you’re probably unlikely to find multiple open outlets. This has great outlet spacing, it’s very sturdy, and doesn’t get hot when all of the outlets are in use.

Note: If you need a travel 4-port that works internationally with 220/240 volts, check out the Outlets To Go power strip from Monster:
http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=3842
I picked the Targus over the Monster because I don’t need 220 and it’s smaller than the Monster.

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Favorite Tech Friday – IOGEAR External USB-to-DVI

Product: USB 2.0 External DVI Video Card
Manufacturer: IOGEAR
Part #: GUC2020DW6
Retail Price: $99.99 US
Street Price: about $75 US
URL: http://www.iogear.com/product/GUC2020DW6/

MY RATING
glassesglassesglassesglasses

DESCRIPTION

The IOGEAR USB 2.0 External DVI Video Card instantly adds an additional high resolution DVI display through your USB 2.0 port. Install the driver, plug the adapter into the USB 2.0 port, plug in your monitor, and you’re ready to go. This is a killer way to add a third (or fourth) monitor to your laptop or desktop PC.

PROS

  • No external power source needed
  • Supports a max resolution of 1920×1080
  • Works with XP, Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.4+
  • Supports 32 or 64-bit OS
  • You can plug up to 6 of these into a computer
  • 3-year warranty

CONS

  • Fine for 1920×1080 spreadsheets, docs or web, but not HD video
  • Monitors blink for a few moments when coming out of sleep mode
  • Must be plugged into a USB slot (not a non-powered USB hub)

WHY IT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PIECES OF TECH

I’m a multi-monitor kind of guy (at least dual-monitors, but sometimes as many as six). You can never have too many monitors, especially when you’re doing research or remote support. Even with a docking station, you’re likely to max out a notebook PC at 2 monitors. These things are awesome! When I want to watch full-screen HD video, I just make sure to park that video player on a monitor that’s physically attached to the ‘high performance’ video card, and not on an a ‘USB’ monitor.

Note: IOGEAR also makes a USB-to-VGA version (#GUC2015V) which is cheaper, but it only goes up to a max resolution of 1280×1024.

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Amazon Kindle 2 – From an SBS Geek Perspective

The actual bookshelf in my office I have a lot of reading to do and I need to plow through an average of 40-80 pages from books on a daily basis. (That excludes 180-220 emails per day, blogs and websites). I don’t know if that number is high or low by your standards, but I find that each year the amount of reading I need to do always goes up.

Now, even though I’m a geek, I don’t want to be a nerd. And carrying a fake book around is getting pretty deep into nerd territory. But i figure that with features like playing MP3s and cellular wireless, that swings me back over to the geek camp. So, after an inordinate amount of online research, I purchased a Kindle 2 from Amazon.com. I picked the Kindle 2 model over the Kindle DX for several reasons.

My considerations for which Kindle to purchase:

Note: My winner for each category is shown in the far right column, and the spec I like best is highlighted in under each Kindle. Keep in mind that this is based on my research, not official Amazon specs / info.

Also: You can click on any picture for a larger view.

SPECS

  Kindle 2
Kindle 2 
Kindle DX
Kindle DX 
Winner
Weight 10.2 oz. 18.9 oz. K2 – 46% lighter
Overall size 8” x 5.3” 10.4” x 7.2” K2 – 25% smaller
Screen size 6” 9.7” DX – 2.5 x bigger
Resolution 800×600 @167ppi 1200×824 @150 ppi N/A
Max # books 1,500 3,500 DX – 2,000 more
Storage 2 GB, 1.4 usable 4 GB, 3.3 usable DX – 1.9 GB more
Battery life Up to 1 week Up to 1 week N/A
Free Wireless Yes Yes N/A
Free Case No No N/A
Price $259 US $489 US DX – 47% cheaper

 

GOOD – The DX has 2x the screen & 2x the storage.

BAD – The DX has nearly 2x the weight and 2x the cost.

WINNER – At half the price and half the weight, I opted to buy the Kindle 2.

OK, so all that looks good on paper, but what about the real test? How does this really look and feel? Let’s look at some key categories.

SIZE
As I mentioned in a previous post, I hate hauling around bulky or unnecessary items. When it comes to packing your toolkit or travel bag, size matters. Here is the K2 next to some everyday items for perspective: 4GB Zune, dollar bill, K2 & Matt’s new book. (The Kindle 2 is shown in the optional case)

The Kindle 2 size compared to everyday objects

The K2 is definitely smaller than a standard geek book, not as wide as a dollar bill, slightly thicker than a Zune, & a lot thinner than my Palm Treo Pro phone (not shown).

READABILITY
In spite of the resolution and poor focus of my camera phone, you have to see the screen to believe it.

Good screen resolution indoors

When I unboxed the Kindle 2, I thought there was a sticker on it, but that was the actual screen.

Physical size compared a CD

Other than the background having a gray tinge to it (rather than a true white) it looks like a real printed page. For me the gray was a bit distracting at first, but I’m already used to it. The picture above is showing my website, not an eBook. The camera phone doesn’t do the Kindle justice. This is a VERY impressive screen.

GLARE
Though contrary to popular belief, geeks do go outside in the sun for things other than driving to a customer site to fix a computer. Here is the Kindle 2 outside at noon with the sun behind me as I took the picture.

Outdoor reading looks great

That’s full daylight, no clouds, with the sun shining right on it.

If you try to use the Kindle as a mirror, it is possible to get a flare on the screen, but I really had to aim just right to get this much glare.

Intentional glare from the sun

Just a slight shift and the sun spot was gone. Readability outside is as-good, if not better than indoors.

WEB BROWSING
The Kindle is designed to access the web, not to surf it. The screen shots above show that you can indeed surf the web though and read blogs and such. Just don’t expect a desktop PC web experience.

READING PDF DOCUMENTS
One of the killer features for me (and pretty much the primary reason I bought the Kindle) was the native ability for the Kindle 2 to read PDF documents. You just plug in your USB / charging cable and the Kindle shows up in Windows Explorer like a USB drive.

Drag-and-drop files onto the Kindle 2

Drag-and-drop, you’re done. I have gobs of Microsoft Press books that include a CD in the back with a PDF version of the book. You can just plug in the Kindle, insert the CD, and drag and drop the PDF into the Kindle.

GOOD – All the PDF documents I tested rendered accurately on the Kindle.

BAD – Many PDFs are smaller on the 6” screen than they would be in real life, making them harder to read. And the cool font size changing feature doesn’t work on PDFs as far as I can tell.

MORE GOOD – Even though the text is smaller, I was able to search PDFs, bookmark them, and the Kindle remembered which page I left off reading.

MORE BAD – I couldn’t add notes or highlights to a PDF like I could with a ‘real’ kindle book.

Small fonts aside on PDFs, this feature still rocks.

FILE CONVERSION
The drag and drop on the Kindle 2 means I didn’t even have to email the document to Amazon for conversion like the Kindle 1. I did send a PDF to “name”@free.kindle.com (the way to convert files to the Kindle AZW format without the $0.15/MB wireless fee), but that has a file limit of 5 MB.

For a test I took the 1.92 MB “Windows Server 2008 Technical Overview.pdf” file and sent it to Amazon for conversion. It came back to me in under 2 minutes as an AZW file that only weighed 5.4 KB. I pulled the AZW file into the Kindle 2 and it was just my sig line from the e-mail. A few seconds later another email came in from Amazon with an attached PDF but now it was called “Windows_Server_2008_Technical_Overview.pdf” and was the exact same size as the original. It still doesn’t change font sizes in the Kindle, but it works the same as before the ‘conversion’. I suspect I’ll be spending a lot of time learning the ins and outs of file conversion because I’d like to be able to shrink and grow the text if possible on a PDF.

OPTIONS
The only option I recommend (other than a warranty if you’re the fumblefingers type) is the Amazon Kindle Black Leather Cover.

Optional leather cover

At $39.99 US, it’s not cheap by any stretch, but then again it’s not cheaply made either. It fits like a glove, and it still gives you access to the important bits for charging and such. I wonder how long the elastic band / strap will last. Still, I think that the leather cover is a must-have.

VERDICT
So far I’m a very happy camper. This is the best (and most fun) technical purchase I’ve made since I got my Acer Aspire One netbook. The Kindle 2 can do text-to-speech and there’s supposed to be experimental support for MP3s, but I don’t care about that. This is a great device as-is.

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Show Notes – July 2009 KYSBSUG Meeting

Here are the links from the July 2009 Kentucky Small Business Server User Group (KYSBSUG) meeting:

TOPIC: “Multimedia Smackdown – Ripping DVDs and Other Cool Stuff” 

TV Tuners / Streaming

DVD to WMV / AVI / DivX / XviD

MP3 Devices / Editing

Other Links (thx David Hunter)

Thanks to all those who attended and contributed links. If you have a favorite Video / MP3 / DVD editing tool, please feel free to post a link in the comments.

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